Book Review – REPRESENT: The Woman’s Guide to Running For Office and Changing the World

When President Trump won the presidency in 2016, June Diane Raphael, producer-actor-podcaster-feminist, thought that if Trump could win elected office, she certainly could too. She had no idea where to start. She couldn’t find a running-for-office guidebook with the information she wanted and so she teamed up with Kate Black, former Vice President of EMILY’s List, to write REPRESENT: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World. REPRESENT inspires women who are thinking that maybe, possibly, they might want to run for office one day and encourages them to run and to run now.

REPRESENT is part inspiration and part hard truths about the difficulties of running for office. On the inspiration side, REPRESENT presents academic research as well as testimonials from women who have run for office and won. Did you know that a 2011 study found that men are 60% more likely to feel qualified to run for office than women? And that’s not all. During the same study a majority of men who felt they were not qualified to run still said they would consider running anyway. 

Ayanna Pressley (US Rep from MA) explains that self-doubt was one of the problems she had to overcome before she ran for Congress. She worried she wasn’t smart enough and that she hadn’t done enough to run for public office. She eventually realized she was qualified because she had the desire to serve and her experiences would make her an empathetic and effective leader. And now she’s a Congressperson. 

The authors tell you in all caps headers that “YES, YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO RUN FOR OFFICE” and “YOUR EXPERIENCE IS YOUR EXPERTISE.” And they point out that “Men. Are. Not. Waiting.” Men are not waiting until they have more experience in their careers or more experience in local public office before they run for a state or federal office. And if you need more reminders later in the book, each chapter ends with “Keep Reading. Stay Working. We need you.” 

REPRESENT doesn’t sugar coat how hard it can be to run for office, the book holds some hard truths. Depending on the office you are running for, campaigning takes time and money. You may have to get help with some of your current responsibilities like caring for an elderly family member or taking kids to sports and activities. Or you may have to ask for some time off from your job so you can spend time campaigning. In the end, win or lose, the work of campaigning for office will open up new opportunities for you and so the time you invest will be well worth it. 

Women face even bigger hurdles than men when it comes to raising money. Women have accumulated less wealth than men, women get paid less for equivalent work, and women don’t have the same access to networks of wealth that men do. And, let’s face it, even in the best of circumstances raising money can be difficult and uncomfortable, 

REPRESENT offers advice about how to figure out how much money you will need, how to get started raising money, and organizations that can help build your fundraising expertise. Crisanta Duran (former CO State Speaker of the House) provides her advice, “Lead with your ideas and values for the position you’re running for. It’s easier and more effective than asking ‘Hey can you contribute money to me and my campaign?” 

REPRESENT stops short of telling you how to actually win your campaign. There is no information about calculating your win number, defining your universes, cutting turf for door knocking, setting up your office, or training your volunteers. 

REPRESENT provides a realistic way to determine if you should run. It tells you to quit worrying about things you don’t need to worry about (am I qualified?) and instead focus on the real issues you may deal with (can I rearrange things so I have the time? can I raise the money?). All of this comes with a healthy dose of encouragement to go for it. You are needed at the table. 

Start Running! We need you.

Gov. Little promotes compromise

I’ve had a week now to mull over Gov. Brad Little’s State-of-the-State address and the response by Senate Majority Leader Michelle Stennett.  

And I feel better about this year’s legislative session.

For one thing, legislators will have their hands full evaluating the regulations state employees edited and simplified this year. They should have less time to grandstand for extreme right-wing causes.

Of course, the regulations only had to be rewritten because last year legislators failed to review the former ones–still one can hope.   

And I learned three interesting things from Little’s and Stennett’s statements. 

One, our rainy day fund has reached its goal. Little says we must up the goal; Stennett says let’s see just what programs will suffer before we make a two percent across-the-board cut. Previous cuts have handicapped some agencies. 

That sets the stage for compromise. No one can deny that our current growth cycle cannot continue forever. Yet, we need to invest in our infrastructure and future. 

This isn’t a battle between good and evil..  

The goal is to find balance between two goods. 

Two, I was surprised to learn that the new sales tax on out-of-state on-line purchases is bringing in $6 to $7 million each month. 

Idahoans are purchasing over $120,000,000 in goods on-line each month? Imagine if we were inserting that much more into our local economies. I can see I need to make some changes.  

Unfortunately, former legislative majorities have ruled that this new tax money will not go to fund Medicaid Expansion or improve schools or repair roads or bridges.

No, it is designated for tax relief only. 

Nothing screams “Republican” like not trusting the administration or, to some extent, future legislators to make decisions as wise as your own.  

Not that tax relief is bad. Democrats support ending the sales tax on groceries and upping the home-owners exemption from property taxes. Both would help Idahoans across the board rather than favoring the wealthiest among us. 

Now, Little doesn’t want to go so far as to end the sales tax on groceries–that’d cut about $100 million from the budget.  

But he is for using $35 million from the restricted fund to increase the sales tax refund for groceries from $100 to $125.  

That’s not the best deal for large families and those with so little income that they don’t have to file.  Still, it will help a lot of working people.  

That’s a good compromise proposal, and I wish it well.      

Three, I learned that ⅔ of Idaho’s prisoners are in jail because of parole violations. 

At first I thought that was mainly people serving time for deeds that are only offenses for parolees–like having a gun in their car or going across the state border without permission. But such offenses are more likely result in longer probation with closer supervision. 

Many of these prisoners may be in for a second offense as bad or worse than the first. 

Still, it’s an extremely high rate for any state.

Gov. Little proposes a two-step program: over 800 new beds for inmates (500 of them out-of-state) and two programs to help parolees reenter society.  

The Governor earmarked lots of money for “high-risk” parolees and a only a fraction as much for community recovery centers. 

I’d prefer to see the priorities reversed, but, again, we’re seeking a compromise between two goods–and a middle ground will be found.  

Less surprising–but welcome–are the Governor’s proposals to increase education spending, fund Medicaid Expansion, offer new university courses in cybersecurity, and spend $100 million on infrastructure. 

 If the legislature follows through, Idahoans will benefit. 

You ARE NOT ALONE

Democrats are everywhere, even here in Canyon County

I often talk to Democrats in Canyon County who feel very alone in their political opinions. If you feel this way, I’m here to tell you that A LOT of Democrats live in Canyon County. 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

As of September 3rd there were 10,333 registered Democrats in Canyon County according to the Secretary of State’s Website

You read that right – we have over 10,000 registered Democrats in Canyon County!

The number of registered Republicans is far higher, I know, but give me a second to explain why 10,000 registered Democrats in Canyon County is remarkable. 

Democrats don’t need to be registered as Democrats to participate in Democratic primaries. Democrats have “open primaries” in Idaho, which means anyone can participate in them regardless of their party registration. Republicans on the other hand, have held “closed primaries” in Idaho since 2012. Voters have to register as Republicans if they want to take part in the Republican primaries, and Democrats do not. 

Many people who regularly vote for Democrats are registered as “unaffiliated.” Idahoans are not required to pick a party affiliation and so tens of thousands of voters in Canyon County have registered as unaffiliated instead. Voters who registered a while ago were automatically registered as unaffiliated, because the registration form did not include the option to pick a party until July 2011. 

Democratic candidates have gotten far more votes than 10,000 in Canyon County. There are a lot of examples of this, but I’ll just give you one. In 2016 James Piotrowski ran for Congress as a Democrat and got over 21,000 votes! 

In summary, voters in Canyon County do not need to register as Democrats, and yet over 10,000 people have done so. That’s remarkable!

We don’t know exactly who–or even how many–how many Democrats there are, but election indicate that at least one out of every three people you see in Canyon County is a Democrat. I’ll say it again: 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Let’s dispel the myth that there are no Democrats in Canyon County. Start talking out loud to others about the politics that are important to you, wear your Warren t-shirt with pride, put that Bernie bumper sticker on your car, and wear that Yang “MATH” hat out of the house. Let other people know who you are, you might be pleasantly surprised at the response. 

The important point is that if we do the organizing work we need to do, we can start winning elections in Canyon County. (Much more on this in future articles.) 

More than two goal posts in legislative battles

The Idaho legislature serves up an extra dollop of crazy during election years. 

A little crazy is the norm each session.  Something has to fill the time before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee decides on a budget for next year and the spending bills start moving. 

In election years, though, Republicans fearing a challenger want to earn headlines with bills supporting issues that are hot buttons for voters–like gun rights, abortion, and school choice.

Problem is they’ve already passed all the common sense options.  

Take gun laws, for instance.  Just what can legislators do after approving concealed carry for all residents over 18?  Including non-residents can’t be much of a vote getter. Maybe they’ll require dealers to carry large gun magazines–20 rounds, maybe even 50? Or maybe they’ll follow Greenleaf’s lead and require a gun in every household?  

Do expect bills making abortion a felony and transfering more funding from public schools to charters. 

The problem is too many voters think of politics like a football game–two teams try to get to goals at opposite ends.  

In reality, goals are in every direction–and some are in the middle. 

Democrats aren’t out to take your guns away.  Gov. Andrus was a noted hunter and a decade ago a First District  nominee for U.S. Representative had been an NRA member for 20 years. 

The majority of Democrats back what they see as common sense–universal background checks and limits on the size of magazines. 

And we certainly aren’t unhappy that a church’s security guard stopped a shooter. What an insult to our humanity. 

And Democrats are pro-every-child-being-wanted-and-cared-for rather than pro-abortion.  More and better jobs have proven effective at cutting abortion rates; punishment hasn’t. 

Republicans did introduce a bill in the last legislature to allow murder charges against women who get abortions. Abortion restrictions were introduced in the majority of states because President Trump’s two Supreme Court appointments have brought speculation over whether the Court will overturn Roe vs. Wade.  

Idaho already struggles to pay for one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Are we ready to pay care of children whose moms are serving time? 

Why aren’t we willing to put similar sums into making having one more child a more feasible choice for a woman?  

Consider what it would be like if everyone assumed that Republicans were anti-Democratic goals?

Idaho’s highest elected Democratic leader–Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett–posted her goals for the 2020 legislature in blogs in October and December.   

Creating economic opportunities and quality jobs.

Providing better educational opportunities leading to a skilled workforce. 

Protecting clean air and water and public access. 

Maintaining, repairing and replacing roads, bridges. and drinking water and sewage systems.  

Dealing with the shortage of physicians and financial problems of local hospitals.  

Now, Republicans have opposed bills aimed at furthering these goals because they would increase government spending and control.  

Does that mean Democrats have the right to accuse all Republicans of being pro-bridge collapse?  Or pro-low paying jobs? 

Not at all. Many Republicans share Stennett’s goals; they may consider them less of a priority than they are for many Idaho Democrats, but they still recognize them as worth working toward. 

Unfortunately, there are other Democratic goals that many Idaho Republican legislators do disagree with–the rights of the people to have adequate healthcare, to initiate legislation, and to vote in legislative districts created by a bipartisan commission.

And if it does come down to a vote by party, there aren’t enough Democrats in the legislature to protect these rights. 

We can only hope that Republican legislators listen to their voters. 

I won’t hold my breath. 

New Year’s Resolutions for Democrats

2020 will be a deciding year for our country. 

For three years, we’ve watched as decades of progress was reversed–clean air and water rules, endangered species protection, anti-violence laws, workers’ rights, net neutrality, the fight against global warming, etc. 

 The 2020 election will be the most important–and the most rancorous–in recent history. 

So I am suggesting some New Year’s resolutions for progressives.  

The first: Don’t tune out.

It’s easy to say that both sides are at fault. 

Or that nothing you can do will make a difference. 

That’s surrender. The more people who do nothing, the greater the danger to our freedoms. 

Don’t give up on making the world a better place. Be the role model you want for your children and grandchildren.  

The second: Fact check everything–and speak out. 

Very few of us are going to believe that a candidate is trafficking children from a pizza place. Nor will we take serious a Fox news report that the FDA is banning popcorn, frozen pizza, and canned frosting. 

Yet, during the 2016 elections fake news articles were shared on social media at a higher rate than more reputable ones.

Most people know that The Onion posts satire, not news. But after the 2016 elections CBS News listed an additional 20 sites specializing in not-true items including some with such great sounding names as Civic Tribune, Empire Herald, National Report, abc news (a look-alike) and Christian Times.  

And articles claiming to be from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal were found to be fakes. Check companies’ websites to be sure.  

 Three: Don’t go it alone.

Your emails or letters-to-the-editor won’t be enough this year.  

 Winning even a race for state legislature can require contacting 12,000 voters–and advisors like Wellstone recommend contacting each five to seven times. 

Find a team with a clear message that you agree with. The best ones will also have a hard-working candidate, a plan for multiple voter contacts, and a dedication to saving data for the last weeks’ Get-Out-the-Vote drive.

Plan on working with others to visit voters door-to-door and phone them.      

And if you can’t do either–help locate potential donors.  (Envelope stuffing is out-dated. Too many people don’t open them. Postcards put it all right out there for voters.)  

Four: Consider all your options. 

Support a legislative candidate if you can. 

Right now Republicans control more than two-thirds of the Idaho legislature–enough to overcome a gubernatorial veto if they stick together.  And some important issues are sure to come up again–the right to a doable initiative, more restrictions on Medicaid expansion, and attempts to do away with our bipartisan redistricting commission.  

And if the initiatives to increase the minimum wage, legalize medical marijuana, or raise taxes for education pass, the legislature may face more issues that the people support and most Republican legislators do not. 

Plus, working with a legislative team, you get to know the candidate and get a good overview of what a campaign involves. 

If there isn’t a local candidate you can support, you have choices–volunteer for a legislative candidate in a neighboring district, volunteer for a candidate for the U.S. House or Senate, or help a presidential campaign (possibly working in other states.)

Five: Start as soon as possible. 

Idaho’s presidential primary is March 10.  And the filing deadline for Idaho congressional and legislative candidates ends March 13. 

Right now many activists will be working on initiative drives that must end by April 30. Others are recruiting candidates, listening to voters’ major issues, and registering new voters.

Work for the Idaho–and nation–you want in 2021!